Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland: Marten de Roon leaves Sunderland on brink of relegation
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 27/04/17 6:18am
Middlesbrough boosted their slim survival hopes while all-but ending Sunderland's with a 1-0 Tees-Wear derby victory at the Riverside Stadium.
Marten de Roon's eighth-minute strike for a superior Boro outfit proved decisive as Steve Agnew claimed the first victory of his tenure on Teesside.
The victory, Boro's fifth of the season, moves them to within six points of safety and six clear of Sunderland, with four games left to secure their top-flight status.
For Sunderland, despite having a game in hand on their relegation rivals, defeat leaves them 12 points from safety, rooted to the foot of the Premier League.
It means David Moyes' men will be relegated if they lose to Bournemouth next time out, and Hull get a point against Southampton.
On a night where both clubs' top-fight status virtually hung on the result, nerves seem to get the better of Boro, who invited pressure in the opening exchanges, Jermain Defoe's volley drawing Brad Guzan into action on seven minutes.
Both those jitters were put to one side in emphatic fashion in the eighth minute as Adam Clayton's floated pass released De Roon and the Dutchman, who showed a greater desire than Jordan Pickford to reach the ball, slotted the hosts in front.
2 - Marten De Roon has scored two goals in his last four Premier League appearances, as many as in his previous 26 combined. Utility.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 26, 2017
One should have become two in the 20th minute but Pickford came to Sunderland's rescue, denying Stewart Downing his first goal since October 29 after a defensive mix-up involving Billy Jones and Jason Denayer.
Such was Boro's dominance that Calum Chambers was given licence to join in with attacks, but his 23rd-minute drive flashed a yard wide.
Sunderland regrouped and tested Guzan for the second time on 34 minutes, Didier Ndong's rasping drive stinging the palms of the American.
Guzan made a fine diving save to prevent Wahbi Khazri's free-kick from levelling the game three minutes into the second period.
And the Boro stopper was the centre of attention four minutes later when his attempted punched clearance led Victor Anichebe to go to ground, but referee Mike Dean was unmoved by the penalty appeal.
From then on, a valiant defensive display from Boro kept a Sunderland side bereft of ideas at bay, despite Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj entering the fray.
Downing nearly capped a potentially defining victory with a late drive but his miss did not take the gloss off the performance for Boro, who prevailed in the 130th league meeting between the two North East rivals.
Middlesbrough: Guzan (7), Chambers (7), Ayala (6), Gibson (7), Friend (6), Clayton (6), de Roon (8), Stuani (6), Downing (7), Forshaw (6), Negredo (6).
Subs used: Da Silva (4), Gestede (4).
Sunderland: Pickford (5), Jones (5), O'Shea (5), Denayer (5), Manquillo (6), Cattermole (5), Ndong (5), Gibson (5), Khazri (5), Defoe (7), Anichebe (5).
Subs used: Rodwell (3), Borini (4),Januzaj (4).
Man of the Match: Marten de Roon